May 21, 2010

Island Time

Unprecedented amounts of money have been pledged to Haitian relief in the last few months. American households have given over $1 billion and in March, 120 countries pledged over $9 billion(!) to rebuild. The only problem is that—historically—blanketing a country in aid and money has never really worked so well. Is there a chance this time things could be different?

Stories from Adam Davidson and Chana Joffe-Walt of Planet Money and from Ben Fountain.


Four months after the earthquake in Haiti, Ira Glass talks to Haitian reporter Joseph-Romuald Felix while Romuald tours a tent camp in the Petionville suburb of Port au Prince. Romuald talks to four children—two of them have eaten this day, two have not. Nan Buzard, who heads the American Red Cross effort in Haiti, tells Ira that relief agencies have to walk a thin line between helping too little and helping too much. (4 minutes)

Act One

10,000 Brainiacs

Adam Davidson and Chana Joffe-Walt from Planet Money follow one Haitian farmer, with the modest crop of two mango trees, through a byzantine system of aid agencies, NGOs, and government bureaucracy as the farmer tries the impossible—to get some plastic milk crates to store and transport her mangoes. Planet Money is a co-production with NPR News. Check out their blog and podcast. (25 minutes)


“Machann Mango” by El Manicero
Act Two

Compound Fracture

Apricot Irving grew up on a missionary compound in Limbe, in the north of Haiti, and visits the missionary hospital there. It's pretty well stocked and staffed but, oddly, kind of a ghost town. Meanwhile, a rural Haitian-run clinic 5 miles away, without anywhere near the resources of the missionary hospital, is packed with people. Apricot spends time with the American doctor who used to head the missionary hospital but left in order to help foster a "new" Haiti at the Haitian-run clinic. Apricot Irving is writing a memoir about her experiences growing up on the missionary compound. She's currently looking for a publisher. (13 minutes)

Act Three

Haiti is Destiny

Short story writer Ben Fountain tours Port au Prince with his best friend—one of the few eye doctors in the country—and glimpses a cautionary future for us all. Ben Fountain is the author of the short story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevera. (13 minutes)


“Exhibit H” by Joell Ortiz